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Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Youth Not Being Served PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 16 November 2014 00:00
At last year’s Mixed Tout Wars auction, I made a special effort to avoid filling my roster with too many players who are in their mid to late 30’s. For the most part, there’s just too much downside involved when investing in these guys, both from a performance and injury standpoint. And since my season was largely a success, I’ll continue to follow that approach for the foreseeable future. The same cannot be said for many major league teams, certainly not the three teams that decided to act early in free agency, the Mets, Tigers and Pirates. After all, the average age of the first three prominent free agent signings, as of Opening Day 2015, comes out to 36.7, which I guess isn’t too bad if we’re talking about one-year deals. But two of the three contracts were multi-year pacts, which is risky to say the least.

Of all teams, the cost-conscious Mets struck first, inking veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two-year, $21 million contract. Now listen, Cuddyer carries an extensive track record of solid production when healthy. The problem is that he’s averaged just 105 games played per season over the past four years. Similar to what the Amazins did with Bartolo Colon last winter, they’re handing out a multi-year contract to an aging player who would have found it difficult to land a multi-year contract anywhere else. Granted, Year 1 of the Colon experiment was far from a disaster, but he turns 42 next May, so all bets are off. Plus, I think the situation is a bit different when you’re dealing with an everyday player who won’t have the DH spot as a fallback option on days where he could use a breather. Oh, and then there’s that Coors Field vs. Citi Field factor. Will the moved in fences at Citi make much of a difference? I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m staying away from Cuddyer unless it’s an NL-only league and I’m desperate.

All along, the most likely scenario for Victor Martinez was a return to the Tigers, and that’s exactly what happened, though it did take a four-year offer to retain V-Mart’s services. I’m not sure where the 32 home runs came from, and counting on a 30-plus home run encore in his age-36 season is a low percentage gamble. But Victor can hit, and I don’t think he will lose that ability anytime soon. He’s now batted over .300 in five consecutive seasons, and 20 homers and around 100 RBI is a very reasonable expectation for 2015. I’ll be open to drafting Martinez, especially in an OBP league (.373 career OBP), but I won’t go out of my way to pay top dollar for him. The loss of catcher eligibility hurts, and while a first baseman who posts a .300-20-100 line is valuable in fantasy, it’s not quite elite.

Over the past few off-seasons, A.J. Burnett has hinted that he’s ready to retire. But, he keeps coming back, and after a rough season in Philadelphia, he will return to Pittsburgh in hopes of helping the Pirates in their quest to reach the NLCS for the first time since 1992. A.J. enjoyed a great deal of success in his two-year stint with the Bucs from 2012-2013, winning a combined 26 games to go along with a 3.41 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.9 K/9 and 3.0 K/BB. That said, he turns 38 in January and his mediocre performance with the Phillies last season cannot be overlooked. This is one of those situations where I’d rather jump off the bandwagon a year too early than a year too late. If you can get him for around five bucks in an NL-only league, that’s fine. At least he will give you some strikeouts. But at that stage of your draft/auction, there will probably be younger, higher upside options available.

The key word, of course, is younger.

Last Updated on Saturday, 15 November 2014 23:28
 
A Not So Funny Thing Happened… PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 09 November 2014 00:00
Thursday night was rough.

Attention to detail is without question my biggest strength as a fantasy owner. I’m constantly keeping track of all the latest news and I try not to let any nugget of information slip through the cracks. Listen, there’s enough luck involved in fantasy sports that you might as well do your best to control what you can, right? This is especially important in fantasy football, as one misstep could mean the difference between a win and a loss. Failing to replace a hitter who is out of the lineup in a daily transaction rotisserie baseball league is annoying, but there’s a good chance that the blunder will not determine whether or not you win your league. And even in the rare event that it does, you won’t know it, as six months worth of stats tend to drown out four missed at-bats. Football is a different story. There’s something about seeing a “0.00” next to one of your player’s names that makes your heart sink. And when you know that it’s all your fault, well, like I said, Thursday night was rough.

I’ve never been a fan of Thursday Night Football. When the NFL first added regular Thursday games to the schedule a few years ago, the Thursday schedule didn’t start until the second half of the season. Now it begins in the very first week. One of the main reasons why I’ve enjoyed playing fantasy football is that after an intense six months of combing through baseball box scores multiple times a day, it was nice to play in leagues where you can actually take a few days off each week from managing your squad. Not anymore. And even from a non-fantasy perspective, I think it sort of cheapens Sunday. But all of this is no excuse for what happened on Thursday, November 6, 2014.

One of my four football leagues is NAIFFL. Lord Zola is the commissioner and fellow Mastersballers Lawr and Rob are two other league mates. In three tries, I have yet to qualify for the playoffs, just missing the cut on two occasions. At 4-5, I’m still very much in playoff contention. NAIFFL is a PPR league, and this is the key reason why I opted to grab Andrew Hawkins late in the draft back in August. With Josh Gordon serving his suspension,

Hawkins was expected to fill the role of top wide receiver for the Browns. Hawkins got off to a fast start, racking up a combined 21 catches for 244 yards over his first three games, but he hasn’t been quite as consistent since. Still, in such a bye-heavy week, he was clearly a better option than any of the waiver wire wideouts, and I actually felt pretty good about starting him. The only snafu was that he was officially listed as questionable due to a thigh/knee injury. But all indications, as late as 1 PM ET, were that he would suit up. At around 7:00 PM ET, I began to watch a movie, and my mind temporarily drifted away from the world of fantasy football.

By the time the movie was over, it was roughly 8:35. What? Hawkins inactive? Frantically heading over to the league site, I clicked on my lineup, but it was too late. So I’ll be trying to win this week despite that dreaded “0.00” next to Hawkins’ name. This is so unlike me. Hopefully, it won’t mean the difference between a win and a loss.

Thursday night was rough.

How rough?

That remains to be seen.

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 November 2014 00:30
 
Back To Work Already PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 02 November 2014 00:00
To tell you the truth, I don’t remember a year in which the LDS and LCS series were as one-sided as they were this season, particularly in the AL, where every series ended in a sweep. But the Fall Classic made up for all that, as 2014 marked just the second time since 2002 that the World Series went to seven games. From a fantasy perspective, I try not to make too much of the postseason as a whole, as the sample size is small, but at least we got a good look at the Royals and Giants. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a hard time watching baseball without thinking in fantasy terms, so here are my thoughts on some of the pennant-winning players.

ROYALS

Post-hype sleeper alert!

Lofty expectations accompanied Mike Moustakas to the Majors, but what we’ve seen so far from the 26-year-old has been nothing special. But maybe Moose can build on the five home runs and .817 OPS he produced this postseason and perhaps even reach the 25-home run plateau in 2015. Moustakas is unlikely to post a strong batting average, however, which is why he won’t be too high on my draft day wish list. That said, the reward far outweighs the risk if you can get him for around five bucks in a deep mixed league.

“Big Game” in name only

An impending free agent, James Shields didn’t do himself any favors by going 1-2 with a 6.12 ERA and 1.72 WHIP across five postseason starts, including an awful showing in the opening game of the World Series. Shields will still get paid plenty by some team, probably not the Royals, but he won’t get paid ace-type money because, well, he isn’t an ace. The veteran righty has been one of the most durable pitchers in baseball ever since he broke into the big leagues, and he’s exceeded 200 innings in each of the last eight seasons. But I cannot help but think that all of those innings are bound to catch up to him at some point, and his declining strikeout rate is a bit of a concern as well. The bottom line is that I’d rather jump off this train a year too early than a year too late.

Still waiting after all these years

Yeah, yeah, this is sort of an exaggeration as it’s only been four years. But four years isn’t a short time either, meaning it might be time to get a little worried about Eric Hosmer’s development, or lack thereof. After showing some promise in 2013, batting .302 with 17 homers, 79 RBI, 86 runs scored and 11 steals, the Royals first baseman regressed to the tune of a .270-9-58-54-4 line this year. The good news is that he raised his performance level in the second half, this despite missing a considerable amount of time due to injury, and excelled in the postseason, batting .351 with two homers, 12 RBI and eight runs scored in 15 games. As he enters his age-25 season, Hosmer carries significant profit potential. At a discounted price, I’d gladly take another chance on him, at least one more time.

GIANTS

Panik cool under pressure

Forget about the gold glove caliber defensive play in Game 7. Joe Panik proved this year that he can be a force with the bat as well, finishing the regular season with a .305 average over 73 games. While the rookie second baseman hit only .233 in the postseason, he did record one homer, eight RBI and seven runs scored. Panik figures to serve as the Giants’ everyday second baseman in 2015 and he certainly deserves a roster spot in deeper mixed leagues and NL-only formats. Don’t expect much power, but his stellar minor league numbers suggest that he could turn out to be a steady contributor in the batting average and stolen base departments.

Panda patience 

Pablo Sandoval will need a lot of patience if he sticks to his current nine-figure salary contract demands because it isn’t happening. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Sandoval is a tremendous clutch hitter who is often underappreciated in fantasy circles. How about a .429 average with four RBI, six runs scored and a 1.002 OPS in the seven-game World Series? Although his physique is still an issue, Pablo did play in a career-high 157 games this season. His power production these days is average at best for a third baseman, but the career .294 hitter makes for a fine consolation prize if you choose to pass on the elite options at the position.

Mad-Bum becoming less appealing

What? Let me explain. Madison Bumgarner was selected at 5.04 (#52 overall), an absolute steal, in the 12-team MLB.com mini-mock which I discussed last week. But after wrapping up his record-setting postseason with a five-inning save in Game 7, can we really expect Bumgarner to last that long in drafts? Whereas a month ago, I saw him as a guy who could be had towards the back end of the ace tier who could return top-5 SP value, I’m now convinced that you will need to spend a top-35 pick to get him. And since I don’t like to draft starting pitching that early, I’m reluctantly preparing to look elsewhere.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 November 2014 09:13
 
Comparison Mocking PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 26 October 2014 00:00

I’m usually pretty good at following through on personal goals, but when it comes to my annual pledge to take a break from fantasy baseball, at least during the postseason, I have a 0% success rate. And the reason is simple: October mock drafts are fun! So, two weeks ago, I organized a 12-team mixed league industry mini-mock (six rounds) to be conducted via e-mail, and asked each of the participants to include a brief comment with their selection. On Friday, Jason Heyward became the 72nd player selected, thus concluding the mini-mock. Head over to the MLB.com Fantasy 411 blog for the complete results and commentary.

Coincidentally, Lord Zola recently conducted his own mini-mock, a rather entertaining two-round, 15-teamer, entertaining because the participants were Lord Zola and 14 Lord Zola clones. In case you missed it, here’s the first round and second round.

What if we compared the MLB.com draft to Todd’s draft in an attempt to identify the players who had the biggest discrepancy in draft position? Well, that’s exactly what I did.

Charlie Blackmon

MLB.com draft: Not drafted

Zola draft: Round 2, Pick 3 (18th overall)

Perhaps no player will inspire more debate than Blackmon when it comes to assessing his proper value for next season. After kicking off the 2014 campaign by batting .305 with 14 homers, 52 RBI and a .828 OPS in the first half, the Rockies outfielder managed only a .264 average with five home runs, 20 RBI and a .698 OPS following the All-Star break. The good news is that his stolen base production remained fairly consistent and he will continue to benefit from playing half of his games at Coors Field, where he put up a .331-13-48 line this year. But to me, there’s just too much risk involved in spending a top-20 pick on a guy with such a limited track record who posted a .617 OPS away from Coors. And at 28 years of age, it’s not like he’s a young prospect with loads of upside. If someone else in your league wants to pay top dollar for Blackmon, let them.

Michael Brantley

MLB.com draft: Round 1, Pick 6 (6th overall)

Zola draft: Round 2, Pick 12 (27th overall)

And who took Brantley 6th overall? Well, of course, it was the Zen Master himself! Lawr has made no secret that he’s a big time Brantley fan, but 6th overall? He could have at least waited until the second round, no? Now look, I believe in Brantley, but I’ll have to side with Todd’s valuation here. Brantley would need to at the very least duplicate his 2014 stat line to earn this price, and I can’t say with a whole lot of confidence that he will.

Hanley Ramirez

MLB.com draft: Round 2, Pick 3 (15th overall)

Zola draft: Round 2, Pick 14 (29th overall)

Chances are I won’t be owning Hanley on any teams next year. And it’s not because I plan on avoiding him entirely. Rather, I am simply unwilling to pay the price that it will likely require to roster him. Even if I was in the draft with Todd and his clones, I’d pass on him at 29th overall. But in most leagues, I think he will be taken closer to 15th than 29th. No thanks. Keep in mind that this is a guy who has averaged 107 games played per season over the last two years. Guarantee me an injury-free season and maybe I’ll buy into 25 homers, 20 steals, 85 runs and a useful batting average, a best case scenario line that pretty much equates to 29th overall.

Evan Longoria

MLB.com draft: Round 2, Pick 12 (24th overall)

Zola draft: Not drafted

After missing a combined 117 games from 2011-2012, Longoria has played in all but three games over the past two seasons, so we can now safely remove the “injury-prone” label. Despite the good health, however, the Rays third baseman posted a career-low .724 OPS in 2014, which is a bit concerning. Plus, his 22 home runs were a far cry from the 32 longballs he belted in 2013. Although Longoria probably deserved to be mentioned in Todd’s “Hey, What About Me?” article, his 2014 numbers aren’t quite deserving of the 24th overall pick, even if we factor in position. Sure, it’s always possible that he can improve upon those numbers and earn second round value, but I’d sooner grab Kyle Seager or Nolan Arenado a few rounds later.

Clayton Kershaw

MLB.com draft: Round 1, Pick 5 (5th overall)

Zola draft: Round 2, Pick 7 (22nd overall)

This all comes down to how highly you value starting pitching in fantasy, or more specifically, whether or not you feel comfortable drafting a starting pitcher in the first round. I will never draft a starting pitcher in the first round. Ever. So I guess I’m biased here. Now I’ll admit that from a pure numbers standpoint, Kershaw deserves to be taken in the first round. We’re talking about six straight seasons of a sub-3.00 ERA and two straight seasons of a sub-2.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP. He’s also coming off a year in which he registered a career-high 10.85 K/9. But like I said, I will never draft a starting pitcher in the first round, and I’m not about to break that rule, even for Kershaw. And since Clayton will be taken in the first round in roughly 95% of drafts, there’s a 95% chance that I will not be owning him. Well, make it 100%, being that I will never draft a starting pitcher in the first round or the second round. And even if I’m sitting at #22 in the draft with Todd and his clones and Kershaw is still on the board, I’m not about to break that rule either.

Though it would be awfully tempting.

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 October 2014 00:43
 
Analyze This PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 12 October 2014 00:00
Just in case you haven’t fallen asleep from the Old Duck’s Friday column, maybe this one will do the trick! After taking a couple of weeks to unwind from what was an intense yet rewarding 2014 Tout Wars season, I figured that now would be a good time to look back on the year as a whole and evaluate my performance objectively. I spend a lot of time, probably way too much time, second-guessing my in-season decisions. So it’s kind of refreshing to say that this season, my good decisions far outnumbered my bad ones, and though it would have been nice to win the Mixed Auction Tout Wars league, finishing in third place out of 15 teams is an accomplishment in itself. I won’t bore you with my full roster and all that stuff. You can head over to the Tout Wars site for that information. Instead, I’ll keep it simple.

 

BEST DRAFT DAY PURCHASES

Nelson Cruz ($10) – My hope was 25 homers and 85 RBI. I got 40 homers and 108 RBI. If Cruz re-signs with the Orioles (which sounds likely), I could see 30 home runs and 100 RBI in 2015, health permitting. But would I be willing to shell out close to $30 for him, banking on a repeat performance? Not quite.

Jose Altuve ($16) – By now, it’s safe to say that Altuve is officially one of “my guys.” He’s my favorite player to watch and my favorite player to own. Expecting him to bat .341 again and swipe 56 bags might be unreasonable, but a .300 average to go along with 40 steals and around 100 runs scored (the young Astros lineup will only get better) is perfectly reasonable. It will cost at least $30 to roster him next year, and I will seriously consider taking the plunge.

Denard Span ($1) – I’ve always felt that Span was undervalued in fantasy, but I didn’t see this coming, particularly the .302 average and 31 steals. How much it will take to secure Denard’s services in March remains to be seen, and although I’m open to drafting him again, I probably won’t go much higher than ten bucks, which means I probably won’t be owning him.

Doug Fister ($9) – Strikeouts was my weakest category, and a big reason why is because I penciled in Fister for around 160 whiffs over 200 innings but received only 98 punchouts over 164 frames. But his record, ERA and WHIP were all Cy Young caliber. Look for his strikeout rate to recover in his second season in the Senior Circuit. He will be undervalued yet again.

Mark Melancon ($2) – In deeper mixed leagues, I usually shy away from drafting a third closer, opting instead to save some money and take an elite setup man who has a legitimate chance to assume stopper duties at some point during the first half of the season. Let’s just say that things worked out rather nicely with Melancon. Count on more of the same from him in 2015.

WORST DRAFT DAY PURCHASES

Ryan Braun ($38) – 19 homers, 81 RBI, 68 runs scored, 11 steals and a .324 OBP isn’t a bad stat line. But it’s more like a $15 stat line, at best. Braun could bring back some profit next year if his recent thumb procedure proves to be a success and results in a power restoration. But honestly, I’m tired of this guy.

Chase Headley ($15) – Something in between his 2012 and 2013 stats was the idea. Instead, we saw further regression. Headley’s hitting did improve a bit following his mid-season trade to the Yankees. If he stays with the Bombers next year, I’ll be tempted to throw a few bucks his way, especially in OBP leagues.

Desmond Jennings ($18) – Jennings used to be one of “my guys.” Not anymore. So disgusted with his sub-par performance, I traded him right around the All-Star break, which turned out to be a wise move, and not only because he missed the entire month of September due to injury. Will we ever see the former top prospect truly break out? At this point, I have my doubts.

Asdrubal Cabrera ($12) – Cabrera performed decently enough to remain in my starting lineup for the entire season. No, he didn’t pay me back for my $12 investment, but this wasn’t a disaster.

Matt Dominguez ($3) – Complaining about a $3 player might seem silly, but Dominguez continues to be a major OBP liability, which makes his adequate power contributions simply not worth it.

BEST FAAB PICKUPS

Henderson Alvarez ($9) – Nine bucks can’t even buy me a non-fast food dinner here in New York City, but in Tout Wars, it bought me a 2.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and nine wins over 17 starts. If you can live with the lack of strikeouts, Alvarez could once again net a profit.

Mark Buehrle ($1) – This one was all about timing, as I benefited from the best part of Buehrle’s season before cutting bait. How does six wins, a 1.68 ERA and 1.16 WHIP across eight starts sound? The veteran southpaw might just be the most boring fantasy option in all of baseball and should be left undrafted in the vast majority of mixed leagues.

Neftali Feliz ($12) – Making his return from Tommy John surgery, Feliz proved that he can still be a dependable big league closer despite the diminished velocity, converting 13 of his 14 save chances while posting a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He will likely open 2015 as the Rangers’ ninth inning man and it would not be surprising to see his strikeout rate improve. In mixed leagues, he’s a solid second closer with some upside.

WORST FAAB PICKUPS

Shawn Kelley ($16) – As a David Robertson owner, this was a purchase I had to make. The good news was that Robertson needed just the minimum 15 days on the DL. The bad news was that the 16 FAAB dollars spent on Kelley bought me only one save. But I’ll take the good news over the bad news any day.

Rafael Montero ($16) – The Mets called up Montero right around the same time they promoted Jacob deGrom. I won Montero for $16. Eventual league champ Derek Van Riper won deGrom for $1. Need I say more?

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 October 2014 09:07
 
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